Snakebites kill 58,000; govt seeks national action plan

NEW DELHI : Given the large number of people being bitten by snakes in India, the Union Health Ministry plans to launch a national program dedicated to snakebite prevention and control.

Venomous snakes are a significant cause of morbidity and mortality, especially in the hinterland, affecting mainly males between the ages of 20 and 55.

Recently, a national consultation meeting was held on this issue organized by the Directorate General of Health, with the participation of ministries of livestock, agriculture, tribes, central zoo authorities, vaccine manufacturers, the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), NITI Aayog, the National Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.

According to ICMR, snake bites cause 58,000 deaths annually in India and 232,000 people a year are severely disabled because of it. India is home to more than 300 species of snakes, including about 60 species of venomous or mildly venomous snakes. The four main venomous species are Russell’s Viper, Indian Cobra, Common Krait, and Saw-Scaled Viper. Snakebite is a neglected tropical disease (NTD) and tropical and developing countries account for about 95% of all snakebites worldwide.

“Although there is a standard treatment guideline for snakebites published by the Ministry of Health, its implementation is very poor in both private and government health facilities. Nearly 80% of snakebite deaths occur outside of hospitals due to lack of awareness and delays in reaching the hospital and people opting for traditional therapies. Dr Joy Kumar Chakma, ICMR snakebite research scientist, said we provided input from a snakebite research perspective, training and capacity building and muscle type. necessary infrastructure to deal with such cases.

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